A Lesson for Schools from @Delta Airlines

I fly Delta (@Delta) airlines pretty much exclusively and have done so for many years. I am loyal to them because I believe they value me as a customer and that is saying something in this day and age of dwindling customer service. Of the millions of people they move per year I am unknown to them. I have never received a personal communication from them and I don’t think that I am a topic of conversation in their company. Yet, I remain loyal. Why?

As a frequent flyer of Delta, I am aware of the efforts they make to ensure that all customers have a quality experience. For those of us who have attained one of the frequent flyer levels of service, a new layer of support is available for the purpose of shoring up greater loyalty to the airline. I use their app on my phone to book flights, check in, and do all sorts of things. I receive phone calls and e-mails if there are travel interruptions and I always get a survey at the conclusion of every trip to provide feedback to the airline. On those occasions when I have sent that feedback, my response is acknowledged. But recently, Delta took a step further in showing appreciation for customer loyalty.

I found myself at the SEA-TAC airport in Seattle waiting for a flight to get me back home to Virginia. While I stood in the gate area, two Delta employees appeared, wheeling a most unusual cart. On the cart were a large number of Delta items (lunch bags, luggage tags, small footballs, etc.) and underneath these items were an even larger number of pizza boxes. Why on earth would two employees be wheeling a massive amount of pizza and trinkets to the gate area of a departing flight?

Within moments, one of the employees got on the loudspeaker and indicated that Delta wanted to thank customers for their loyalty and patronage to the airline and to show that appreciation was throwing an impromptu pizza party – right in the middle of the gate area. Crazy idea, I thought to myself. Suddenly, a massive line for the free pizza formed as if people hadn’t eaten in days. I would run to get in line for Jimmy Buffett tickets but not a slice of pizza. I continued to check my e-mail.

The employees then said that anyone who posted a message about the pizza party on Twitter, Facebook, InstaGram, etc, and showed their posting would get a prize. So picture it: a couple of hundred travelers chomping down on pizza, snapping pictures and posting the ideas to social media! What a concept!! (If you would like to see the results of Delta’s efforts, log in your social media account with #Deltaseasurprise). I took a picture, posted it to Twitter and claimed my prize: a Delta luggage tag.

But that was not all. I took my seat on the airplane and the same agents boarded with a tray of treats. They went from seat to seat and offered these free treats and said to everyone, “thank you for your loyalty to Delta. We appreciate your business.”

I couldn’t help but start thinking about schools, families, customer service and loyalty. Our families are loyal to our schools. How do we show our appreciation for their loyalty? What could we learn from Delta about building brand loyalty to our schools?

Creating a culture where people feel valued is essential to organizational success and is an essential ingredient in family engagement. Maybe we could take a cue from Delta and throw a pizza party, or if that is not possible, make some phone calls to random families and thank them for their loyalty to our schools. I suspect the dividends would be huge.

What I think is really significant is how I felt at that moment considering what I had experienced on the trip. In leaving Virginia for Seattle, a mechanical problem delayed my flight and was going to force me to miss my connection. In a frantic and hurried state, I made new arrangements that re-routed my trip and cut my connection time down to an uncomfortable few minutes. To make it, I had to sprint through the Detroit airport with my suitcase in tow and arrived at the second flight as they announced the boarding door was closing– not to mention a bit out of breath.

Interestingly though, none of that mattered that day in Seattle. I felt like the airline was going out of their way to thank me for my patronage. I couldn’t help but think of the families who experience difficulties with our schools and the opportunities we have to thank them which could very well have the same effect as my experience today: to erase my negative experiences and replace them with positive ones.

There is a lesson here. How can you interpret this for your school? How can you demonstrate your appreciation for family loyalty to your school? How can you market your success. Take a page from the Delta playbook.

Good job @delta!!